The Lawrence Report: The Defence Lawyers - High-profile case was kept in public eye

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The Independent Online
THE TWO lawyers who tried to bring Stephen Lawrence's alleged killers to justice through a private prosecution had one thing on common - they had never had any experience of such an action before. It failed.

Imran Khan became the Lawrence family solicitor within days of Stephen's death and has dedicated much of the past six years to the case.

Michael Mansfield became involved with the case a few months after the murder.

He is one of Britain's most celebrated and successful defence lawyers and the hero of the human rights lobby. Hisclients have included the Angry Brigade, the Birmingham Six, the Bridgewater Three and Arthur Scargill.

Despite his many successes as a defence barrister he had no experience of prosecuting.

The men decided in 1994 to bring a private prosecution against Stephen's alleged killers.

Mr Khan maintained that the Criminal Prosecution Service had always had enough evidence to prosecute.

But the private action had to be abandoned when the evidence of key witness Duwayne Brooks was ruled inadmissible.

During the inquiry, Mr Mansfield's skilful questioning helped to expose the inadequacies of the police investigation but he was so remorseless that it provoked an outcry from police groups. Mr Mansfield also attracted unwanted headlines later, when his high earnings from criminal legal aid cases were placed under scrutiny at a separate hearing at the House of Lords.

Mr Mansfield, 57, studied philosophy and history at Keele University, before teaching at a polytechnic and studying for his Bar exams through a correspondence course.

He failed land law three times before passing and became a QC in 1989.

Slim and charming, Mr Khan has never shied away from cases with a strong racial element. His decision to represent two Asian youths accused of involvement in the killing of a white London schoolboy, Richard Everitt, in 1994 led to threats being made on his life.

The tactics he has used in his tireless and determined campaign on behalf of the Lawrence family have unsettled the police.

And during the Macpherson inquiry, Mr Khan was said by police to have a "confrontational" attitude which "caused very real disruption" to the investigation.

A police statement to the inquiry accused him of "open opposition to the normal lines of family liaison which have been tried and tested in countless murders".

Ian Burrell